Technology has changed the way that men buy sex making it possible for a greater share of sex workers to work indoors. This may sound like workers are moving off the streets, but is that in fact the case? Or has the internet simply expanded the size of the sex trade over-all creating a whole new class of workers in addition to those who continue to ply their trade on the streets?
Tag: sex work
A few years ago, after the Moonlight Bunny Ranch threw Natalie Dylan into the fray when they announced on the Howard Stern Show that they were auctioning off her virginity, I thought – now that’s a woman I would love to meet. Natalie and I shared some correspondence and few weeks later she kindly agreed to come to the Economics of Sex and Love, via Skype, for a class discussion on the price of virginity. It was a great dialogue not only because Natalie is a sexy, intelligent and educated woman, but the topic of pricing virginity is an interesting one to consider.
A few years ago a friend of mine participated in a program that was designed to use sports to educate children in Africa about the danger of unprotected sex. His plan was to spend several months travelling with a group of students around the Gambia bringing this program to the schools. When he arrived in the capital city Banjul, however, the local authorities made it clear that while they welcomed the project, the only message they would be permitted to leave with the students was they should say no to sex before marriage. No discussion on condom use would be tolerated.
If the average escort selling sex in the US worked 2,000 hours a year, her income would place her in the top 0.5% of the earnings distribution.
It continues to be a mystery as to why women are earning an average of $280 per hour to do, essentially, what the rest of us do for free. You may want to argue that their jobs are risky in terms of violence, disease and arrest, but if risk explained the high earnings then the women doing the riskiest sex work, those walking the streets, would earn more. Of course, they earn much less, only about $27 per hour.
Sometime I wonder why there isn’t more creative energy applied to finding solutions to social problems that have been created by the proliferation of the sex trades. The debate around policy appears to be driven by those with political (and moral) agendas in such a way that two distinct camps have emerged: those who favor criminalization and those who favor legalization. Neither of these extreme approaches completely solves the problem of violence and exploitation of the women and men who operate on these markets. And so we have resigned ourselves to a debate over which policy minimizes the harm, while shrugging off the possibility of eliminating it all together.
When I was much younger, and sufficiently ill-informed that I didn’t have to think about the harsh realities of life, I was very much in favour of the legalization of prostitution. It wasn’t because I believed that a woman has a right to sell her body, in fact I saw little difference between protecting a woman’s right to sell it and man’s right to buy it, it was because I didn’t think it was fair to punish some women for doing explicitly what so many other women were doing implicitly.
One of my favourite quotes of all time takes place a deleted scene from the movie “The Producers” called “The King of Broadway,” in which Max Bialystock (played by Nathan Lane ) shares the advice given to him by his mentor the great Boris Tomaschevski on his death bed. He said:
“…when you’re down and out, and everybody thinks you’re finished, that’s the time to stand up on your two feet and shout, ‘Who do you have to FUCK to get a break in this stinking town?!'”
The global financial crisis emptied the pockets of European governments. Although the Netherlands had it easy compared to some of its neighbors, the government still ran a deficit of 6% of GDP last year. Now the Dutch are trying to balance their budget by 2015 and one way they hope to increase revenue is by sending tax collectors into the Amsterdam’s famous red light district to get their pound of flesh, so to speak.
Recently I have found myself in trouble twice for my choice of words. The first time was for calling sex workers “prostitutes,” and the second time was for calling prostitutes “sex workers.” Frankly, I didn’t buy either of the arguments. The first person to chew me out objected to the word “prostitute” on the grounds that it is a name that was probably invented by “some man.” As a “professor” I find that kind of reasoning a little silly (perhaps I should be an “academic worker” to rid myself of that same stigma?). The second person who objected to “sex worker” felt it gave those workers too much respect—a line of reasoning I find, frankly, offensive.